Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thim on Defense

Over at the superb China Policy Institute blog, Michel Thim has a piece on Defense Policy under President Ma... after reviewing the continuity between the Chen and Ma Administrations in some areas of defense policy, including the Hard ROC policy, Thim observes:
Defence-planning notwithstanding, there are several challenges, some temporary, some embedded in the specific conditions in Taiwan, all of which the Ma administration ought to address sooner rather than later. One of the most urgent matters is the imminent fighter jet gap. A significant component of the current jet fleet (F-5s, Mirage 2000s) is going to retire, or is scheduled for upgrade (F-16A/Bs), by the end of the decade, which means that some of them won’t be available at any given time between 2017 and 2027. This relates to the problem with arms procurement. At the moment, the US is, realistically, the only source of advanced weaponry besides domestic production, which would not be possible without US assistance. After 2008 record procurements were made in terms of money spent, but the most important element, the 66 F-16C/D fighter jet, has yet to be secured.

A large part of recently materialized procurements were long-stalled orders held over from Chen’s presidency, which blocked by a KMT majority in the Legislative Yuan, in some cases for several years. That defence matters were subject to “petty” domestic disputes was not perceived well in the US and voices questioning Taiwan’s resolve to prepare for its own defence originates from that period. Thus, the persistent negative perception of political bickering between the KMT and DPP during the Chen era is a formidable spoiler of US-Taiwan relations. Although this does not tell the whole story about US-Taiwan military cooperation, as there is much happening under the table far from the spotlight, (mis)perceptions should be tackled better. The oft-mentioned problem with Taiwan’s low defence spending – approximately at the level of NATO countries facing no comparable threat – is a matter to be addressed too, and it is well noted in current edition of QDR. Yet allocation of resources for defence should not be considered as a final figure, given the option of approving a special budget outside of regular defence spending. If the US approves the F-16 deal in the short term, a special budget would be a way to tackle the issue financially on Taiwan’s side.
As I've noted on this blog, the US also must share the blame for the failure of the F-16 deal, as Thim alludes.

One thing I'd like to add... Thim notes that some good things have happened, weapons sales, etc, from the US, which don't get the publicity that the F-16 impasse received. Quite true, yet in this paramount US-Taiwan relationship, one thing I haven't heard of is the Ma Administration asking for increased US military visits and personnel cooperation and exchanges. Does anyone know if that has occurred? More intimate relations between the two sides' militaries would greatly ease the problems of cooperation during the upcoming war with China over (pick at least one: Senkakus, Taiwan, South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh). From my (admittedly restricted) vantage the tussle over the F-16s has concealed a long-term malaise in other forms of important relations.... a common pattern with the Ma Administration is to use the political theatre offered by high profile issues to obscure a lack of progress in other crucial areas.....
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1 comment:

MJ Klein said...

Michael, sometimes when i read stuff i think that your eyes must roll back so far they get stuck....